The Surreal Gourmet

The Surreal Gourmet's cut-and-save El Ni

Published November 4, 1997 12:18PM (EST)

Until recently, I wasn't buying the pandemonium that linked every anomaly to the impending arrival of El Niqo. Then eight feet of October snow fell on Denver, the stock market took a major nose dive and a 5-year-old expansion team won the World Series. Now I sleep in a rubber dingy and brace for the atmospheric Armageddon.

Being on disaster alert is business-as-usual for residents of Southern California. We've seen just about everything -- which is why the prospect of a new calamity is so seductive to our jaded sensibilities. We've also learned that mass destruction has a silver lining. After the '95 Northridge earthquake, life-affirming casual sex was rampant, longtime neighbors finally met one another and everyone had a perfect excuse not to go to the gym.

Don't let a little torrential flooding and a lack of power or running water ruin your day or come between you and a fine meal. When the big wave leaves you stranded, pay tribute to the El Niqo gods with a rice dish inspired by our neighbors in South America, the region most likely to bear the brunt of El Niqo's wrath. The whole meal can be made over any makeshift fire using only a Swiss army knife and staple goods from your cupboard. Come to think of it, why wait?

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(Serves 6)


2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves fresh garlic, minced, or 1 tablespoon dried garlic or garlic powder

1/4 cup of anything from the onion family, diced, or 1 tablespoon dried onion flakes

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/3 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon paprika

2 cups any available rice

1 bottle of water

1 - 2 chicken bullion cubes

1/2 cup any available canned peas, carrots, beans, corn and/or raisins
Tabasco sauce, or any other hot sauce, to taste

Substitute any missing ingredients with whatever you can find in your pantry, or anything you can trade your neighbors for. If necessary, barter with items from your emergency kit (see below).

1. Heat oil in a pot over any handy flame. If you have fresh garlic and/or onions, cook them first for about 3 minutes, or until the first hint of gold color appears. If you are using dried garlic and onions, simply stir them in the oil for 15 seconds.

2. Add red pepper flakes, cumin, thyme and paprika. Stir for 30 seconds to release the flavors.

3. Add rice and stir thoroughly for 30 seconds.

4. Add 4 cups of water, bullion cubes, canned veggies and/or raisins. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes, or until rice is tender.

5. Serve immediately with hot sauce.

Le Secret: Stockpile raisins. They add a sweetness that makes the dish.

The Adventure Club: Invite some neighbors you have never spoken to.

Note: More is better. Add everything you can scavenge.

Music to Cook By: With no power, you'll be singing the blues

El Niqo emergency kit:

  • A bottle of single malt scotch
  • Condoms (don't forget to check the expiration date)
  • Chocolate
  • Candles
  • Matches
  • Cigarettes

By Bob Blumer

Bob Blumer (aka the Surreal Gourmet) hosts his own program on the Food Channel.
The Surreal Gourmet's Web Site is located at

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aftershock Earthquakes Floods Food Latin America Natural Disasters Stock Market